15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House as to what amount has been allocated or expended in connexion with the militia recruiting campaign throughout Australia?
– No amount has been allocated, but, as I stated previously, in reply to a question, it is intended to keep the expenditure down to a minimum.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to inform the House as to whether he has considered, or is considering, the need for providing docking facilities in the port of Melbourne, for the purpose of effecting urgent and necessary repairs, or are we to take it that the absence of any reference to this matter from the elaborate statement that he made on the expanded defence programme signifies that he has decided that there is no need for these facilities?
– The general problem is under consideration at the present moment.
– Rumours are current to the effect that the Government proposes to postpone indefinitely the operation of the national health and pensions insurance legislation. Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the exact position as the Government sees’ it?
– Before the House adjourns to-day, a statement in regard . to the matter will be made.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government, before giving effect to the decision to postpone the operation of the national insurance legislation, will have a further look at the obligations assumed by the Commonwealth in connexion with conventions of the International Labour Office of 1923 and 1927, to which the Commonwealth was a concurring party?
– I assure the honorable member that we shall have another look at those conventions.
– The Government having decided to abandon the national insurance scheme, which would have cost it many thousands of pounds, will the Prime Minister make that sum available for the relief of unemployment during the Christmas season ?
– It is not customary to reply to questions without notice respecting the policy of the Government.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Commerce said in this chamber, in 1928, that the people of Australia had waited far too long for a system of national health and pensions insurance? If he did, can we now count upon that right honorable gentleman using his best efforts to see that no further delay occurs in this connexion?
– My position in this matter is known to every one.
– At what hour this afternoon or evening does the Government intend to announce the cancellation of its much-advertised national insurance scheme?
– The Government does not propose to announce the cancellation of the national insurance scheme.
– In view of the likelihood of the postponement of the national insurance scheme, can the Prime Minister give the assurance that duly constituted approved societies will be safeguarded in the matter of expenses incurred up to date?
– I have already said that a statement in regard to national health insurance will be made later. If the honorable member will possess his soul in patience, he will know what the attitude of the Government is before the day is out.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to advise the Blouse at what time this afternoon or evening the Government intends to announce the postponement of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, and, secondly, whether its operation is to be postponed for a definite period, or for ever?
– I have made it perfectly clear that it is the intention to make a statement on this matter, and I shall reply to no further questions in regard to it, until that statement is made.
– I have received from an organizer for the national health insurance scheme the following telegram : -
Will you ascertain immediately from the Treasurer whether I am to continue to go out and secure people for my approved society?
Will the Treasurer tell me whether I am to advise this man to continue his work?
– I refer the honorable member to the reply given by the Prime Minister to the question put by the honorable member for Griffith.
SUPERANNUATION SCHEME for CLerICAL
– Some time ago the predecessor of the present Minister for Defence received a deputation from the Federated Clerks Union, requesting the extension of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme so as to cover certain clerical workers in his department. Have these representations yet been considered, and has a decision upon them been arrived at?
– I have not seen the minutes of the deputation referred to, but I shall read them immediately, and inform the honorable member of the position.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is intended to give to the House an opportunity to discuss the notice of motion standing in my name, for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into certain matters? If there will not be time to do so during this period of the session, will the right honorable gentleman give an undertaking that the matter will be discussed in the early part of the next period of the session?
– The honorable member recognizes that it will not be possible to deal with this matter before the adjournment for the Christmas recess. I shall endeavour to comply with his request when the House next meets.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is a fact that tenders were invited for a further supply of military hats, to close on the 4th December? If so, has he been able to devise means for compelling the successful tenderer to pay award wages and to observe award conditions under the contract?
– I have nothing to add to the replies that I have previously given to the honorable gentleman, except to say that the Attorney-General’s Department has considered the suggestion of the honorable members for Melbourne Ports and Bourke.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House as to what items on the very lengthy notice-paper are to be disposed of before the Parliament goes into recess?
– Items No. 2- States Grants (Fertilizer) Bill- No. 3- Electoral Law and Procedure - Joint Committee - No. 4 - Sales Tax Exemptions
Bill (No. 2)- No. 5- Defence (Visiting Forces) Bill - and No. 7 - Aliens Registration Bill.
-What about item No. 6 - National Health . and Pensions Insurance Bill (No. 2)?
– That is the catch.
– I have already said that a statement inregard to the Govern- ment’s intentions concerning that particular bill will be made later this day. Apart from the bills that I have men- tioned, there is none of very great importance. I shall intimate at a later stage any others the Government wishes to have passed.
– As there is a certain degree of confusion in the minds of farmers in regard to seed wheat and wheat used by themselves for fodder purposes, will the Minister for Commerce state whether such wheat -will be affected in respect of quotas under the scheme for a home-consumption price?
– The act refers to “ wheat harvested and delivered for sale”.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state what the cost is likely to be of the development at Yampi Sound and if, when the investigations are completed, he will make, as speedily as possible, a report concerning the intentions of the Government?
– An estimate of the cost of this -work has been made, and 1 shall furnish the honorable member with the information by letter. I also give the assurance’ that when the report is completed it will be made available.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had an opportunity to peruse, and has the Cabinet considered, the application ‘of pearlers for Commonwealth assistance ?
– We have given consideration to the matter, but have not yet been able to finalize it. We hope to do so in the immediate future.
Report of Committee of Inquiry
– Is the Prime Minister able to table the report of the committee which inquired into the Kyeema disaster ?
– I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation is now preparing the report for tabling.
Port Kembla Waterside Workers
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform honorable members of the present position in regard to the dispute at Port Kembla in connexion with the loading of pig iron by the waterside workers at that port?
– Notice has been issued, specifying Port Kembla as a port to which Part III. of the Transport Workers Act applies, and steps are being taken to appoint a licensing officer for that port. The notice comes into operation this afternoon.
– In view of complaints that have been made relevant to the pollution of the ocean beaches at Sydney, due, it is suggested, to the discharge of organic matter from oceangoing vessels in the vicinity of beach fronts, and causing interference with the health and convenience of thousands of the Sydney surfing public, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health cause a warning to be issued to shipping operating in the vicinity of these beaches to the effect that the regulations and penalty provisions of the Federal Beaches, Fishing Grounds and Sea Routes Protection Act will be enforced against those responsible for such actions?
– I shall make investigations, and see what can be done.
. -by leave - Honorable members will recall that the Government decided to defer consideration of the recommendations made in the report on the Northern Territory submitted by
Messrs. Payne and Fletcher until I had visited the territory and studied conditions on the spot. Since my return from the territory, 1 have submitted to the Government my recommendations on the general policy of development that I considered should be adopted, and am now in a position to advise honorable members of the Government’s decisions.
The Payne-Fletcher Committee, in their recommendations, have taken a broad view of the development of the Northern Territory. They have made some most important recommendations with regard to a general policy to be applied by the Government, and have made others in relation to particular projects of high importance. They have dealt separately with the various fairly well-defined zones into which the territory may be divided, and have offered suggestions as to the general and particular form of assistance which should be given by the Government to individuals and companies in the territory. In addition, they have suggested what they believe should be the general attitude of mind of the Government towards the territory, and the attitude of mind of the local Administration in the exercise of its functions, and have offered suggestions on staff and administration matters.
The general picture is of a vast area, one-sixth of the area of Australia, not richly endowed with agricultural or pastoral possibilities and, while widely mineralized with a great diversity of minerals, as yet without any spectacular mining discovery or wide development of a mining industry. No one has ever suggested that there is any opportunity for the development of secondary industries in this area; and its population is so sparse that there are few, if any, opportunities for the development of those primary industries, such as market gardening, horticulture, fishing and dairying, which spring up around centres of population. That is a fair picture of the limitations of the Northern Territory.
Yet here is an area of more than 500,000 square miles in extent, some hundreds of thousands of square miles of which is sufficiently well grassed or provided with edible herbage to make it definitely capable, in the aggregate, of vast pastoral production. The rainfall varies from a short heavy regular tropical fall in the north, to a light and irregular precipitation in the south, but in the fodders of the south, nature has adapted itself to these conditions. Permanent waters are plentiful in the north, diminishing in frequency, as one travels south, to extreme rarity; but over almost the whole area, with comparatively few exceptions, underground supplies of water are to be obtained by boring to depths which seldom exceed 300 feet. The lag in development of these pastoral opportunities has been due to several conditions. The first is the remoteness of the territory from the centres of population, which are also the centres of finance and of consumption. Secondly, there has been by comparison with the States, very little developmental work done by the governments which have been responsible for this area. Thirdly, owing to the remoteness of the territory, and its vast interior distances, costs of transport have always been of such staggering proportions as to impose a load of expense upon development and operation, which, with few exceptions, has proved fatal to profitable private enterprise.
With this picture in mind, it is evident that government policy should provide for developmental projects, such as roads, stock routes, water supplies, perhaps railways or other transport services, and also a necessary degree of direct Government assistance to individuals who are willing to take up and occupy th’is country and develop it. It is with n recognition of these facts that the Government’s policy has been framed. The policy provides for a vigorous plan of road construction, and for the location of stock routes and their proper equipment with water supplies. There are areas of thousands of square miles of quite useful pastoral country, to which there is no road or track of access, and from which, if taken up and developed, no stock could be travelled, because there is no stock route with water supplies. A definite five-year plan of such road and stock route development is one of the fundamentals of the Government’s policy. Another is the introduction of a system of . Government advances to settlers to assist in the development of the holdings. A third is the introduction of a system of co-ordinated sea, rail and road transport services, which will, to a remarkable degree, reduce the costs of transport in the area to be served. Reductions have been made of freight charges on goods and live-stock on the two Commonwealth railways which serve this area. There lias already been, for instance, a reduction by 25 per cent, of the freight on cattle trucked from Alice Springs to the Adelaide market.
I shall now deal with the details of policy upon which the Government has decided. The Government gave the most serious, consideration to the recommendation of Messrs. Payne and Fletcher that two railways should be built into the Northern Territory, one from Dajarra, in Queensland, to Rankine, on the Barkly Tableland, and the other from “Wyndham to Mistake Creek, in the Northern Territory. Messrs. Payne and Fletcher said in their report that these lines could not be justified unless a substantial portion of the area served was converted from cattle to sheep raising, and that a return of interest on capital could not be expected. A preliminary estimate of their cost is £4,000,000. The Government has decided to conduct an aerial survey of the country in the immediate vicinity of the proposed routes, and further consideration will be given at a later date to the proposed railway construction. The cattle industry is, and, in my opinion, will, as far ahead as we can see, remain, the principal industry in the territory, but there is no doubt that certain areas at present used for cattle raising are suitable for conversion to sheep. There is equally no doubt that in suitable country, and under suitable conditions, such a conversion would be of advantage. The country potentially capable of carrying sheep has comparatively few natural waters, and the process of development necessary to prepare tt for sheep involves the sinking of bores and their equipment with windmills, storage tanks and troughing, or, in some cases, the sinking of wells or the construction of surface dams. Fencing, drafting yards and shearing sheds must also be provided.
In the areas at present being used for sheep raising, wild dogs are a serious menace, but this is typical of most of the outback sheep country of Australia used for sheep raising. The erection of vermin proof fences is necessary in many parts. The advantages to be derived, in increased population and development, from converting suitable areas from cattle to sheep are clear. To enable cattle country to be converted to sheep, and to improve country that is suitable only for cattle, it is necessary to put into operation some scheme of advances to settlers, such as have been adopted in the States. Up to the present, settlers in the territory have been assisted by way of subsidies. In future, the policy of the Government will be to introduce a system of advances, the details of which will be worked out at the earliest possible date. Advances will be made only to approved settlers, and in such amounts as will not over-capitalize the properties. The existing scheme of subsidies will be discontinued as from the 31st December next, with the exception of reductions of freight rates on the North Australia Railway, and wharfage dues at Darwin, and the payment of half freight on stud stock and stallions.
The Government has decided that a definite policy of resumptions will be laid down, and that officers of the administration should commence at once a survey of all leases with a view to submitting recommendations as to the areas to be resumed, so that in 1945, when the next resumption period, in the majority of the leases, falls due, the provisions of the ordinance can be immediately, and to the best advantage to the territory, put into force. In areas suitable for conversion from cattle to sheep, the resumptions will be decided so as to divide the parts suitable for sheep from those which are suitable for cattle only, having regard to the maintenance of adequate living areas. In cases where the resumable area is not large enough for a man to make a living from it, and there are adjoining leases, the area to be resumed will be that portion which, when added to the resumable area of the adjoining lease, will make a living area for a new lessee. The Government recognizes that this is a country where the areas of holdings must necessarily always be large. My reference to resumptions is not to be construed as meaning that the Government has any intention of embarking upon a policy of subdivision of leases into comparatively small holdings. However, as there are to-day very many leases of several thousand square miles in area, and more than one in excess of 10,000 square miles, there is obviously some opportunity for exercising, with advantage to the community and without unfairness to the lessees affected, some of the rights of resumption embodied in the terms of the leases. The criterion in this matter will be that the maximum public benefit shall accrue from the use to which the land is put. What action will secure the most people occupying the country on a decent standard of living, and producing the maximum production will be the principal factor in deciding resumptions.
Since the depression there has been a 25 per cent, reduction of the rents of pastoral leases, and a 40 per cent, reduction in respect of those leases in the Gulf district, where the cattle are affected by the buffalo-fly. It has been decided that the reduction of 25 per cent, shall not be continued beyond the 30th June, 1939, but that the 40- per cent, reduction in the case of leases affected by the buffalo-fly shall continue until such time as the Queensland restrictions are lifted.
The outstanding obstructions to the development of the Northern Territory hitherto have been its remoteness from markets and from industrial and financial centres, and ‘ the very high costs of transport, which have resulted in ^ exceptionally heavy operating and production costs. During my visit to the territory, and since, .this matter has received my most earnest consideration. As the result, I have evolved a plan under which most of the territory will be served ‘by a co-ordinated ship, rail and road transport service. Subsidies to shipping services, which hitherto have been provided by two small vessels serving a portion of the coast along the Gulf of Carpentaria, and west of Darwin to the Victoria River district, will be discontinued, and a road transport service will be inaugurated. The Government’s dieselengined road train will maintain a regular scheduled service during the dry season, and will serve all stations on the Barkly Tableland, in the Victoria River district, and in the northern portions of the territory. Under this plan it will be possible for the first .time for a stationowner to order goods in the eastern States or in Western Australia, and, without further concern, have them delivered to a time-table at the station property at costs which will represent a tremendous reduction on the costs hitherto prevailing. This will be effected by the coordination of the shipping service to Darwin, the Commonwealth railways from Darwin to Birdum, and the roadtrain service referred to. Special low freights will be provided for developmental materials.
I shall give two examples of the value of this service. The first relates to loading to Wave Hill, in the Victoria River district. Prior to 1936, the total cost of landing materials at Wave Hill from eastern ports was £25 18s. 9d. a ton. During 1936 certain alterations were made which reduced this cost to £24 2s. Id. a ton. Under the new scheme, the cost will be £11 9s. 6d. a ton.
The second example refers to the reduced charges on fencing material for developmental work landed for a resident on, say, a new lease near Anthony’s Lagoon, which would be about the middle of the Barkly Tableland. It is the intention of the Government to give every encouragement and, on occasion, preference to resident lessees. Prior to 1936, the freight on such material to this area was £17 17s. a ton. Since 1936, the Government has been carrying half the total sea, rail and road freight under a subsidy which obviously could not be continued indefinitely. Under the present proposals, the direct freight charge will be reduced to £6 6s. 4d. a ton.
Honorable members will appreciate the tremendous significance of these revolutionary reductions of freight charges upon the cost of living and cost of development of these areas.
To assist primary producers in the territory, the Government has agreed that income from primary production, mining and fisheries shall be exempted from both Commonwealth and Northern Territory income tax for a period of ten years.
The Government recognizes the necessity to reduce the cost of production and also the cost of living in the territory to the lowest possible figures, to enable thi* remote country to be developed, and to provide persons who settle in it, to enjoy, as far as possible, the amenities of life which are regarded as usual for people in the more populous centres. The PayneFletcher Committee recommended that the petrol tax should be abolished in tho Northern Territory. The Government has decided not to act upon this recommendation, but it has approved of an arrangement under which a sum equal to the estimated amount derived from the collection of the petrol tax upon all petrol used in the Northern Territory, shall be used as a subsidy on the freight on petrol, in such a manner as will reduce the price of petrol to users in the interior of the Northern Territory to a degree at least equal to the benefit which they would enjoy by the abolition of the petrol tax. The Government intends to make a further examination of the incidence of customs duties upon costs in the territory.
The Payne-Fletcher Committee did not report in any detail on the mining industry, but the Government has obtained a report on the administrative aspects of the subject and also on the mining ordinances, by the Under-Secretary for Mines, “Western Australia. Just prior to my visit to the territory, I appointed Mr. Hughes as Director of Mines in the territory. This gentleman had previously occupied the position of mining inspector in the Government mining service of Western Australia. He has had wide experience in that State, not only in the Government service, but also in mine management. He will take charge of the Northern Territory mining service equipped with all the knowledge and experience of the gold-mining revival of Western Australia. On the foundation of the report by the Under-Secretary of Mines, Western Australia, a very comprehensive revision of the Northern Territory mining ordinances is being undertaken by the new director. New ordinances which will bring the mining laws of the Northern Territory into lino with those of the States will be made in the near future. There appears to be no doubt that the prospects are bright for considerable advancement in the mining industry if a policy based on sound lines is adopted. The policy of direct assistance to mining which has been adopted by th<s Government will embrace the grant of assistance to companies operating in thu territory and also to small mine-owners, by way of loans and subsidies, recommended and controlled by the Director of Mines.
To encourage prospecting, parties of, say, ten men will be allocated to certain districts. Each party will be under the direct control of the Inspector of Mines of the district. The prospectors will be expected to re-imburse the Government for the assistance received if, later, they have profitable crushings. The existing system of cheap battery charges and cyaniding treatment at Government batteries will be continued. A system of subsidies for the cartage of ore to the Government batteries will be introduced, similar to that in Western Australia. The Government diamond drill will be made available to the companies and syndicates on the payment of the cost of drilling. Under the new director, and with this new policy of assistance in operation under the revised mining laws, it is confidently expected that a stable mining industry of worth-while magnitude will be maintained in the territory, with the hope and possibility of more spectacular developments.
The experience which I gained in the territory confirms the opinion that I have held ever since I assumed office as Minister for the Interior, that it is highly desirable that as much authority as possible shall be vested in the local administration. Considerable additional authority has recently been vested in the Administrator, but his authority and that of the heads of branches of departments, can be extended in many other directions, with advantage both to the Administrator and to the Department of the Interior; and this will be done.
In future, the Administrator will come to Canberra once a year, when . the Estimates are being prepared, for conference on Northern Territory matters, generally including finance, with the Minister and the permanent head of the department. The Government has also decided that in the future the Administrator shall make decisions upon many ordinary matters of routine administration, which hitherto have been decided in
Canberra. The exercise of control of the Northern Territory administration from Canberra will be limited to matters involving policy and major issues of finance.
In future the greatest measure of cooperation will be practised between the Administrator and officers in charge of branches of Commonwealth departments in Darwin, and the Administrator will be given authority to report to the Government, through the Minister for the Interior, on any matters affecting works and governmental administration in the Territory. In the carrying out of all works connected with the pastoral industry, such as stock routes, the sinking of bores for water, and the equipment of such bores with windmills and tanks, the District Engineer, who has hitherto worked under the Department of the Interior, Canberra, will work under the direct control of the Administrator.
The Government has decided that the Northern Territory medical service shall in future be controlled by the DirectorGeneral of Health as a branch of his department. The head of this service will be responsible to the Director-General in regard to all technical matters, but will work in close collaboration with the Administrator. This will enable an interchange of officers to be effected from time to time between the branches of the Health Department in the States and in the Northern Territory, and will place at the disposal of the people of the Northern Territory the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Arrangements have been made with the Australian Aerial Medical Services for a flying-doctor service to be established at Alice Springs. The Australian Aerial Medical Services will provide the aeroplane, pilot and wireless sets, and the Northern Territory administration will supply the medical officer and hospital facilities. The work will be controlled by the Northern Territory Medical Service in the closest cooperation with the Australian Aerial Medical Services.
The Public Service of the Northern Territory is qui te distinct from the Public Service of the Commonwealth but the conditions of service and scales of salary are mainly based on those prevailing iri the Commonwealth ser- vice. Special conditions have been laid down in connexion with appointments to the police force and to professional and technical services, and officers, such as doctors, nurses, surveyors, draftsmen, etc., are appointed having due regard to their qualifications for their particular profession or calling. There is, however, no prescribed examination which must be passed by persons entering the clerical division. The number of officers is comparatively small and consequently the prospects of promotion are slight. The climate of Darwin, where the majority of the officers are stationed, militates against a continuance of efficiency for any lengthy period. Officers of Commonwealth departments with branches in Darwin are drawn from the departments in the south, and are stationed for three or more years in the territory, when they are relieved and returned to their departments. It is believed that if a similar arrangement could be made in respect of the administrative staff of the territory, the efficiency of the Northern Territory Service would be increased considerably. Consideration is being given to the possibility of arranging for officers of the Northern Territory Service to be appointed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. This would give them the opportunity of promotion and would enable a periodic interchange to be made. The Commonwealth Public Service Board will investigate the scheme and report as to whether some scheme can be evolved to improve the present position.
The police force of the territory is recruited by calling for applications from men complying with certain specified standards. Successful applicants are sent to Darwin, where they receive their training. It is the intention of the Government that all new appointees to the police force of the territory shall be sent to one of the State training depots before taking up duty in the territory.
The existing Lands and Survey Branch of the Northern Territory Service will be subdivided. The Chief Surveyor will be responsible for surveys, and a man experienced in the pastoral industry will be placed under the control of the Lands branch. Steps are being taken to appoint a field officer, as recommended by the Payne-Fletcher Committee, whose duty will, be to maintain contact “with lessees, report to the Administrator, and make recommendations in connexion with advances, resumptions, renewals of land, and so on. It is the intention of the Government to seek the part-time services of a person highly experienced in pastoral matters or land administration, when major matters of land policy are under consideration.
-Will he be an officer of a State government, or a person in the employ of pastoral interests?
– In all probability a State officer, as Mr. Payne is.
Upon the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher Committee, the Land Titles Office has been transferred from Canberra to Darwin.
The matter of industrial arbitration in the Northern Territory has been the subject of the most serious consideration. The Government has decided that industrial awards in the Northern Territory shall continue to be made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The possibility of having plaints and disputes heard and decided in the territory is being examined.
Oil other matters in respect of which the Payne-Fletcher Committee made recommendations, the Government has decided as follows: -
I summarize the decisions of the Government as follows: -
A vigorous land-settlement policy, backed up by the provision of direct government assistance to settlers, has been decided upon, and an adequate, experienced and trained land administrative staff will be provided.
A vigorous developmental programme of road and stock route construction will be put in hand.
Railway proposals will be further considered.
Laud transport charges will be tremendously reduced by the co-ordinated sea, rail and road service.
Stock rail freights have been substantially reduced.
The conversion of suitable country from cattle to sheep raising will be adequately assisted.
The administration of the territory will be from within the territory.
Major matters only of finance and policy will be decided at Canberra.
The mining laws will be brought into conformity with the most modern State mining laws, with a competent and vigorous mining administration and reasonable direct assistance to the industry.
Freedom will be given for ten years from federal and territorial taxation on income from primary production.
An arrangement will be made which will be of advantage to petrol-users in the inland areas of the territory to a degree equivalent to that which would be enjoyed by the abolition of the petrol tax.
These and the other steps which I have mentioned will, I feel sure, establish a new confidence in industry in the. territory. A new and very much lower scale of cost of living and production will be established. It is hoped - in fact, I feel confident - that these decisions of policy will presage a new era of settlement and ; development in the north.
The extremely heavy commitments of the Government for defence render it necessary that the expenditure to implement the new Northern Territory policy will, like all other items of expenditure, be kept under review in the light of the current budgetary position.
The pace at which the Government will proceed with ‘the roads and stock routes policy and also the degree to which the Government will be able to proceed with its policy of advances to lessees may, therefore, be affected by our financial position.
I take this opportunity to express the very great appreciation of the Government of the most valuable report of Messrs. Payne and Fletcher and trust that their work may lay the foundation of better times for the territory. I wish also to say that for my own work I found that a most valuable foundation had been laid by my predecessor in office, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). It was he who arranged for the appointment of the Payne-Fletcher Committee upon whose report this revision of policy is founded. The honorable member for Gippsland also took the preliminary steps in connexion with mining matters, assistance to lessees, freight reductions, improved medical services and developmental roads and stock routes to which I have referred.
I appreciate the very valuable work and co-operation of the officers of my department and of the Northern Territory Service, and I refer particularly to Mr. Carrodus, the permanent head of the department, Mr. Gahan, the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways, and Mr. Abbott, the Administrator of the Northern Territory. I have also had the benefit of the advice and experience of honorable members of this Parliament who have paid visits to the territory. I have been greatly helped by the advice of Senator Cooper, the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Collins), Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), Wannon (Mr.Scholfield), Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and Grey (Mr. Badman), as well as the always helpful advice of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain).
I lay on the table the following paper : - ‘
Northern Territory - Policy of Development -Ministerial Statement, and move-
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– Have arrangements^ been made by the Government, or is it intended to make arrangements, as is done in connexion with State railways, to recoup the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the reduction of the livestock rate by 25 per cent, and other concessions, or is it intended that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner shall bear the whole of the cost of these reductions ?
– During the term of office of my predecessor, there was a standing arrangement that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner should be recouped for freight reductions upon the North Australia railway line. Reductions of freight on cattle on the Central Australia line will be borne by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
-As I was unable at times to hear the statement just concluded by the Minister for the Interior, will he be good enough to inform the House as to the length of the proposed new lines in the Northern Territory and their estimated cost?
– The construction of two railway lines was recommended by the Payne-Fletcher Committee, one from Dajarra, in Queensland, to Rankine on the Barkly Tableland, a distance of 240 miles, and the other from Wyndham to Mistake Creek, 200 miles. A preliminary estimate of the cost of these lines is £4,000,000. I have indicated that the Government proposes to conduct an aerial survey of the country in the immediate vicinity of those suggested lines, and to give further consideration at a later date to their construction.
– Did the Minister, during his visit to the Northern Territory, receive from large lessees any recommendations as to how a greater number of people might enter. the Northern Territory due to land subdivision? The Minister has recommended that lessees be allowed to subdivide their own holdings. Will he rescind that recommendation and give the Northern Territory lands officers the sole right of recommending and designing resumptions to ensure, in the public interest, that the proposed expenditure is warranted, and that lessees are not allowed to dispose of their inferior lands ?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, while I was in the Northern Territory, I did receive representations of a general character from many of the lessees. As regards the latter part of the question, the statement of policy which I have just made, that the Government will approve of the subdivision of their holdings by lessees themselves, does not in any respect cut across that portion of the policy previously stated, under which arrangements are to be made immediately for the lands officers to proceed with an examination of the leases so that we may be able to define, at an early date the areas which will be resumed by the Government in 1945, when most of the leases fall due for resumption.
– Is the Minister aware that there is in existence an agreement entered into between the State of South Australia and the Commonwealth that a railway line shall be constructed between Oodnadatta and Darwin? Is he aware that lines have been constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and from Pine Creek to Birdum, and that there is a gap of 580 miles still to be bridged? When aerial surveys of the proposed new railway routes are undertaken, will he also take into consideration the desirability of undertaking an aerial survey of the country between Alice Springs and Birdum with a view to the construction of a line between those towns?
– I have heard that there is such an agreement in existence as that referred to by the honorable member ; I know that the two railway lines to which he referred have been constructed ; I know also that there is a gap of the approximate length mentioned by the honorable member between the two railheads. It is not the intention of the Government to conduct an aerial survey over that route.
– Has any examination been made, and if not, will an examination be made, into the possibility of establishing a group settlement in the Victoria River country adjacent to Wyndham ? I understand that proposals have been made that a large amount of money should be made available for the establishment of such a settlement in that area.
– Proposals of the kind mentioned by the honorable member have been made to the Government. They have been considered, but the Government has come to the conclusion that there is no evidence to justify the belief that any major land settlement scheme could be undertaken in that particular district.
– In view of the fact that the proclamation issued by the New South Wales Government fixing the price of bread is confined to bread sold over the counter, and that the greatest quantity of bread consumed in New South Wales is delivered, what does the Government propose to do to force the New South Wales Government to cover all consumers of bread by a similar proclamation? Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to withhold the payment of moneys to the State Government until that is done?
– It seems to me that the power rests with the State Government of New South Wales. It would not be proper for the Commonwealth to exercise any compulsion whatever upon an individual State.
– I ask the Prime Minister : Is it a fact that he gave to me and to the House an undertaking that this Parliament would not be called upon to deal with legislation imposing an excise tax on flour until the States had passed legislation fixing the price of bread ? Having regard to the fact that it appears that in one State the bread delivered to the majority of the consumers is not subjected to price fixation, - does he regard the fixing of the price of bread sold over the counter in ‘ any State as adequate compliance with the whole spirit of the agreement made between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government, that the States would fix the maximum price which should be charged to consumers of bread?
– First of all, I do not think I gave an assurance that the flour tax legislation would not be introduced into this House until the price of bread was fixed. When the matter was discussed by the conference of Commonwealth and State representatives, tie proposition agreed upon was that the prices of bread and flour would be fixed and that the Commonwealth would bring down legislation imposing an excise tax on flour.
– Does not the act provide that the Commonwealth shall withhold payments unless the price of bread is fixed?
– The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition is worthy of consideration. I shall look into the matter and furnish him with a reply by letter.
– Does the Post- master-General expect to make a statement to the House before the Christmas recess regarding the control of broadcasting in Australia? If not, why was a statement on the matter recently published in the press?
– I shall have no official statement to make on that question until next year.
– In order that private members may make suitable arrangements, can the Prime Minister indicate the approximate date of the resumption of the sittings of the Parliament next year ?
– I ask the honorable member to allow his question to stand over at this stage. Before the House rises for the Christmas recess, I shall give honorable members an idea as to the approximate date upon which it is proposed to resume the sittings in the newyear.
– Yesterday, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), I gave an undertaking that on the adjournment of the House I would make a statement with regard to certain oil matters. Due to the lateness of the hour of the adjournment I was unable to do so, and I forwarded the statement to the honorable member.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 6th December (vide page 2735), on motion by Mr. Thompson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister neglected to give an explanation of this bill, which is connected with a measure passed by the House in the early hours of this morning. There was some doubt whether a subsidy could be claimed by both parties to a share partnership. It was never intended that it could, and it is proposed to amend the act in order to make this clear. The necessity for the amendment has arisen because of the decision of the Government to limit the quantity of fertilizer on which subsidy shall be paid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) desires to know the meaning- of the proposed amendment to section 7 of the principal act. Its purpose is to make it clear that the subsidy shall be payable only on fertilizer used in the year in respect of which the subsidy is claimed. The original section was to the effect that the subsidy was payable on fertilizer for use in that year. The amendment provides that the subsidy shall ‘ be payable only in respect of fertilizer that has been actually used.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th December (vide page 2806), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the law and procedure in relation to -
– This motion was at the bottom of the notice-paper for weeks, but yesterday, without advice to me, it was brought to the top. Having regard to the general understanding that the session is to end this week, I think that the failure of the Minister to inform me of the re-discovered importance of the subject was unfair, and we are not prepared to go on with the debate.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th December, (vide page 2704), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now, read a second time.
.- I listened with interest to the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on this bill, and derived some re-assurance from his statement that it is merely a validating measure, its general purpose being to obviate the retrospective collection of sales tax in circumstances in which it would be manifestly unfair. The bill, he stated, would merely validate what was being done at present. No fresh liabilities were being imposed, he said, and no new exemptions granted, except for validation purposes. I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurances. The sales tax, in all its aspects, is a matter of importance to the people of Australia, and an amendment such as this, which refers to a great variety of items, merits more consideration than is permitted by what I might refer to as the disordered state of the House during the closing hours of the session. Therefore, I ask leave to continue my observations at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from3.40 to 8 p.m.
Report of Air Accidents Investigation Committee
In presenting to the House the report made by the Air Accidents Investigations Commlittee on the- accident which occurred on the 25th October last, to the Douglas air-liner Kyeema, I desire tosay that the duty of the committee was to inquire into the cause of the accident and to recommend to the Minister such action as the committee considered should be taken to prevent a recurrence of such a calamity.
Among the many matters covered by the report I mention particularly the following : - “ The cause of the accident, the administration of the Civil Aviation Board in relation to certain matters, the actions and decisions of certain members of the board, and suggestions for additional safeguards.”
The report of the committee in respect of the administration is necessarily based on a review of a portion only of the activities and responsibilities of the Civil Aviation Board. However, in view of the criticism of the board and its members which has been made by the committee, the Government proposes to have the whole question of the method of administration to be adopted by the newly constituted Civil Aviation Department, and of the suitability of personnel for executive posts- in that department, fully investigated by an independent body before proceeding with the re-organization. All of the suggestions and recommendations of the committee will be given the fullest consideration by the Government.
– by leave - It would have been a fair and reasonable proceeding for the Minister to have moved that the paper which he has just tabled be printed. Obviously I am not in a position to discuss the report which has just been circulated to us. It would be very wrong of me to construe from the very hurried reading I have been able to make of portions of the report things which perhaps I would modify had I had the opportunity to read other portions of it which I have not been able to examine. The report of this committee cannot be ignored by this Parliament. The committee’s recommendations are not only for the Government, but also for every honorable member of Parliament to examine. The Parliament may deem it fair and reasonable to hold the Government responsible for some phases of the recommendations. I find in the report the following passage dealing with beacons : -
We conclude by saying that the evidence has satisfied us that the tests of the beacons wore held up for want of an aircraft, and that the method of administration to which we have referred must be regarded as responsible for the failure that has taken place to acquire one, when it was so urgently needed.
That undoubtedly suggests .that the method of administration was responsible for the failure to provide aircraft to attempt to test the beacons. Obviously if that is so, the Government is responsible. I suggest that it should have insured that these beacons were placed in position in such a way as to be capable of functioning. Unfortunately this is the last occasion for some considerable time when this Parliament will have an opportunity to consider this truly important report which the general public and, particularly, the representatives of the people of Australia have waited for so anxiously. I have felt ever, since this dreadful catastrophe occurred that it would be distinctly improper on my part to offer any opinions at all regarding the causes of the accident, or on governmental activities associated with civil aviation in Australia. Now that I am in a position to make some comment, based upon the conclusions arrived at -by the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, and the evidence furnished to it, I find thai the circumstances associated with the work of this Parliament preclude me from doing so. Not having had any opportunity to examine this report, I am not able to express an opinion whether this accident could have been avoided if there had been more effective administration by the Defence Department of civil aviation matters. I hesitate to say more at the moment than that it is perhaps fortunate for the Government that Parliament will not meet tomorrow.
- by leave - I am rather disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has selected a few words from a report which he has had no opportunity to peruse, in order to make certain suggestions which, when he reads the report, he will find were not soundly based. 1 do not wish to canvass the position at all. Although the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Thorby) did not lay the document on the table and move for the printing of it, I give honorable members assurance that if, when the House meets again, they desire an opportunity to discuss the report, it will be afforded them.
– Reference to Public Works Committee.
– by leave - I move-
That in accordance’ with the provisions ot the Commonwealth Public Works Committer Act 1913-1930, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: -
Repatriation General Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales - Erection of new hospital.
I lay on the table of the House an estimate of cost of the projected work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from page 2989.
.- This measure is intended to validate certain exemptions from sales tax, which have already been- made , by the Government in its executive capacity, and which, so far as I can judge, tend to ameliorate the incidence of the tax. In view of the unpopularity of this tax, I hope that at no distant date it will be still further modified in its incidence, or altogether repealed. Insofar as exemptions are being made, it is so much to the good. I am glad to have the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that, although he does not regard this as a convenient opportunity to consider requests for further exemptions, he will give sympathetic consideration to representations made to him with that objective. I speak with the authority of my leader when I say that the Labour party will offer no objection to the passage of this bill.
.- I bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) a sales tax anomaly which has been revealed since the proclamation of the wheat legislation passed a few days ago by this Parliament. It relates to the incidence of sales tax on macaroni products. Sales tax has been imposed on macaroni products for some considerable time, despite strong representations to the Government that this foodstuff should be placed in the same category as other foodstuffs, and be exempt from tax. As the result of the legislation passed for the assistance of the wheat industry, the manufacturers of macaroni products find that they are not only obliged to pay sales tax on their products, but they also have to pay excise duty on the wheat, which, with the addition’ of a little water, is the constituent of macaroni products. This is a heavy additional burden. These manufacturers are being subjected to what is, in effect, a double tax. I ask the Treasurer to give sympathetic con sideration to this case with the object of removing the anomaly.
.- I alao bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) a sales tax anomaly in respect of biscuits. The better quality biscuits are exempt from this impost, but the lower quality biscuits, which the working class are practically obliged to purchase, are not exempt. An anomaly exists also in regard to soaps and starch. The lower grades of soaps used by the great masses of the people have not been exempted from sales tax. The same remarks apply to starch. The list of exemptions should be extended to include not only luxury lines of biscuits, soaps and starches, ‘but also the lower-grade lines used generally by workers.
– in reply - I have caused to have circulated a memorandum which will make more easy the explanation to this measure, in which th, words to be excised and those to be added are shown. Honorable members who have had an opportunity to peruse it will agree that this bill is largely a formal measure .and has no significance in respect of further impositions of tax on goods of any consequence. The net result to the revenue in respect of this bill is practically nil. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned the fact that it had been found necessary for the reasons explained at the time to impose a tax in respect of the flour used in the manufacture of macaroni and also that a sales tax has subsequently to be paid on the increased, or what I presume will be the increased, price at which macaroni will ‘be retailed. With great respect to my friend, that question has been threshed out in this House on at least two previous occasions on which it has been necessary to impose a tax on the flour used in the manufacture of macaroni
– And biscuits, too.
– That is so; I know the honorable member’s interest in biscuits. On a previous occasion, now happily two years ago, I went into the question of the cost of the ingredients that go to make up macaroni, and also the retail price at which macaroni is sold. What I had to say then was to the effect that there appeared to the Government to be a sufficiently substantial margin between’ the cost of the ingredients used in the manufacture of macaroni and the final retail price at which that commodity is sold to enable the Government to have a clear conscience in imposing what might, in other circumstances, be considered a double burden of tax. As to the flour tax on macaroni, that has ‘been threshed out on a previous occasion and the necessity for it has been made evident to honorable members. As . to the subsequent tax on the increased price of macaroni, that also has been threshed out during sales tax discussions in this chamber on many occasions. The Government has exempted as wide a range of foodstuffs in general use as possible. The question of the competitive position of macaroni, in respect of other foodstuffs relatively close to it in the public mind, makes it quite clear to the Government that these two taxes can be, and, we believe, should be, imposed on that commodity. The same general argument applies in respect of biscuits, which are by no means a new subject in this chamber, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) knows. Biscuits have been dealt with on many occasions and it has been submitted that biscuits are a staple food-
– A necessary commodity.
– I thank the honorable member for having found a suitable description for me to use; but, unfortunately, the figures relating to the total value of biscuits consumed in Australia do . not bear out that assumption. Biscuits cannot be said to be in . any way a staple food of the people. The Government is exempting more and more of the staple foods; in fact, practically all staple foods are now removed from the incidence of the sales tax and, in the course of time, the list of exemptions will, no doubt, be extended.
– Why not exempt the lower grades of biscuits which the workers are forced to buy?
– Because the Government has had experience of exempting one class and not the whole range. The exemption of biscuits as a whole will have to await the time when similar foodstuffs and staple foods can be exempted as a whole.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th September, 1938 (vide page 344), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-I have nothing to say in regard to this bill, except to point out that it contains the details of expenditure from Treasurer’s Advance made, I think, two years ago. I regard it as futile to attempt to dissect the details of that expenditure at this stage, or to hold the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to account for the manner in which the money was used. The unfortunate thing is that the expenditure from Treasurer’s Advance has customarily not been submitted to Parliament for consideration until after the submission of the Auditor-General’s report. It would appear to me that that procedure ought to be reversed if the Parliament is to have any say in the matter at all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 29th Sep tember, 1938 (vide page 344) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 8.28 to 9.22 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendments or requests : -
Loan Bill (No. 2) 1938.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1038-39.
Defence Equipment Bill 1938.
States Grants (Fertilizer) Bill 1938.
States Grants (Fertilizer) Bill (No. 2) 1938.
Sales Tax Exemptions Bill 1938.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1930-37.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1936-37.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Valedictory - Export of Pig Iron: Port Kembla Waterside Workers - Pearl-Shell Industry: Japanese Intrusion - “ Argus “ Comments on Mr. Brennan, M.P. - “ Kyeema “ Disaster - National Insurance: Date of Proclamation of Acts.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to express on behalf of the Government, and members on this side of the House, all good wishes to honorable members personally during the approaching Christmas season, and in the year that is to follow. We have conic to the end of another parliamentary year, and I hope that whatever political differences there may have been between us, we shall part without personal differ- ences, and with good feelings, one for another. When we look back over the year - with its worries, fears, and, at times, its . alarms, not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world also, we cannot but hope that the year that is to come will be a better one, and that the clouds that have hung over the world will be dispersed. I hope that the weeks that will elapse between now and the next meeting of Parliament will bring better conditions and better international relationships, so that we may be justified in viewing the future with greater optimism.
While expressing good wishes to honorable members generally, I take this opportunity to thank, first of all, the members on this side of the House who have so loyally supported the Government during days that at times have been difficult. I also thank honorable members on the other side of the House, who, while fighting hard for their political convictions, have endeavoured to maintain the best traditions of the past.I express my gratitude to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for the manner in which he has carried out his duties. I know that I shall not be misunderstood when I pay a very high compliment to my friend and political opponent, the Leader of the Opposition, for the high ability and splendid courtesy he has displayed in carrying out the duties of his office. I appreciate his attitude very much, as, I ,:m sure, do all honorable members on this side of the House. I associate with him in the expression of my appreciation his deputy, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who, while his leader was absent in Western Australia, carried out his duties in a manner which, I believe, must have been gratifying to the leader. The attitude of both honorable gentlemen has helped to make less unpleasant the party political conflict that is associated with the conduct of affairs in this House.
I desire to express the gratitude and appreciation of honorable members . to yourself, Mr. Speaker, for the manner in which you have discharged your duties, for the dignity, ability and impartiality that you have always displayed. With you I associate the Chairman of Committees, and the Temporary Chairmen, who have acted from time to time.
I desire particularly to thank the Whips for the work they have done. They have never let. up on their job, and they have sometimes, perhaps, been practically responsible for saving the life of the Government.
Our th’anks are also due to the various officers of the House. The Clerk, who has recently been elevated to his present position, I desire to thank particularly. My memory goes back to the smallest Parliament in Australia, that of Tasmania, when, during the time that I was Premier, he served in the same capacity in the State Parliament as he now does in this national Parliament. To the Clerk Assistant, and to those associated with him, I offer the thanks of the House, and good wishes for the season.
To the Hansard staff we are always under a deep debt of gratitude. When those halting sentences of ours appear in the press, and more particularly in Hansard, they are always couched in splendid English, and we are very proud of the speeches we have delivered. Therefore, we say now at the end of the year, what we do not always admit at other times, that a very valuable contribution towards those speeches is made by the Hansard staff which records them.
Our thanks are also due to the staff of the Library, to the Parliamentary Draftsman, and to the departmental officers who attend on us, often throughout the’ long hours of the night. I desire to thank also the attendants generally, and the staff of the refreshment room, with whom we are brought into close contact, and who earn out gratitude, particularly during protracted sittings.
I express th*e thanks of honorable members to members of the press gallery. Sometimes we may feel that they are hard on us, while at other times we know that they are helpful, but whether they are. critical or appreciative, at the end of the parliamentary session, as at the beginning, they are our personal ‘friends. I meet them twice daily whether Parliament is sitting or not, and have to submit to cross examination by them. It is an extraordinary tribute to them that, at the end of the parliamentary year, I can express my appreciation of their services, and of the happy personal relations that exist between us. I trust that the Christ- mas season, and the year to follow, will bring happiness .to them and to those associated with them.
.- I reciprocate all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said. So far as his expressions are related to myself, I have always felt that parliamentary institutions and democratic States should make manifest that the differences which mark political parties should be capable of examination, statement and challenge, while always upholding the dignity of parliament and what I hope to be the desire of the Australian people to consider in a tolerant spirit views with which they may not agree. I sincerely hope that, whatever changes may take place in this Parliament and whatever men or women come into it or go out of it, there will always be adherence to those traditions which we have inherited, whereby we can have our fights - indeed sometimes our scenes - but, nonetheless, we shall always have within ourselves capacity to rise to the highest requirements of our offices.
To you, Mr. Speaker, I express appreciation for the way in which you have presided over our deliberations, and I hope that you .have a happy Christmas. To all other officers of the House, the Clerks and the Hansard staff, and all. who attend upon us in the performance of their duties, I express indebtedness for their ability and courtesy. I am sure that I speak for my supporters when I say that they all value the assistance given to them by all officers.
I am grateful for the reference made to my deputy the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). He is an industrious and hard-working man who carries, out his duties in such a way that without him I should find it impossible to carry on.
– He is a “ snifter “.
– He is. If I may pay a tribute to my “ snifters “ of lesser rank, I thank them and respect them for the great aid that they have been to me throughout the year. All have done their best to play their parts. We do not say that we are 100 per cent, in agreement on everything. We come from various parts of Australia and represent varying categories of life in this Commonwealth.
We are in agreement on high principle and broad policies. We stand for what is known as the principles of labour. But there is individuality in this party. Members of the Labour party have varying points of view and avenues of approach to different matters. It has never been true that the Australian Labour party is merely an iron machine in which no man can have a soul of his own. On the contrary, it is a party in which every man is the captain of his soul and has a freedom to deal with the problems of his country that cannot be approached by any other party.
I should like fo express to the Prime Minister particularly, to the Deputy Prime Minister and to the Ministers of State and Assistant Ministers, my appreciation of the courtesy that they have extended to me in allowing,’ on many occasions, their departmental officers, to whom I am also deeply indebted, to give to me their assistance. I hope that each of them will have a happy Christmas and a new year happier and better than this year. This Parliament has had many exacting duties this year. It will, I think, in the year to come still have tasks of a formidable character to encounter. But, whatever be the political fortunes of parties in this Parliament, it is my prayer that in 1939 this country, and indeed the people at large, will find the world a better place - not only better, but also one in which our highest hopes may be in process of realization.
, I join the Country party in the mutual expressions of goodwill that have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
.- While I join in all the good wishes, I remind members of this House, and especially the Ministry, that to-day is a day on which a great deal of menace and possible destruction has been brought into the homes of a great number of people in this country, and on which the Government has engaged in a conflict with a number of working people, the end of which no one can foresee. At Port Kembla, whether or not one agrees with what they are doing, the waterside workers are doing what they believe is right in the interests of their class and the country, ‘by refusing to ship to Japan material which they believe can be used against this country or against the people of China. From their point of view, they believe they are doing right in refusing to load this material. Although I have abstained from saying anything that would lead these people to incurring a penalty which 1 should not incur myself, I believe from my heart and soul that they are doing the right thing, and that they will be supported in this struggle, not only by the working class, but also by a vast number, of people who support the parties which stand behind the Government; because they know that they are doing what they honestly believe to be right, and because the correctness of what they are doing was shown by the pronouncement by the representative of the Government of Government policy for the defence of this country. If the pronouncement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) means anything it mean* that “we have one enemy. If the policy of compelling the workers to load pig iron destined for Japan means anything, it means that to that enemy we insist upon supplying things which could ultimately be used against this country. I believe from every point of view that the action taken by them will have the sympathy, silent support and, as far’ ae possible, active support of the people of this country, and not merely the working class. I believe that the Government is making a gigantic mistake in attacking these men. It would not attack the doctors when they threatened to lay in waste its national insurance project. We heard no proposal to coerce the doctors to work under that scheme when they refused to do so; but it is pro posed that people who, according to their beliefs, are doing- their duty in refusing to load pig iron, shall be forced into industrial conscription with their livelihood taken away from them unless they pledge themselves to load as many cargoes of pig iron as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited cares for years to come to ship to Japan. Of what use is it to ban the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound when the Government allows pig iron to be exported? The policy of the Government is that our raw material must not be exported. It must be kept in this country so that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited may work it up and make a profit. The ban on the export of iron ore is not preventing Japan from getting our iron. The Government says, “ You shall not take our ore that you may treat it yourselves. That would mean: taking away from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited its profits. “We shall see to it that the iron ore is kept in Australia to be worked by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to its greater glory and to the greater profit of its shareholders. Our iron shall be sold for the profit of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited” to any customers from outside Australia even though it may ultimately mean ruin to Australia “. In 1917 the waterside workers refused to load wheat for shipment to Java, because they believed that, it was being consigned to Java as a subterfuge, and that ultimately it would be sent to countries which were at war with Great Britain. At that time and since the people believed that the waterside workers were right in what they believed.
I ask the Government to reconsider the position. I ask that honorable members of this house who are breaking up for a season of rest, holiday and enjoyment, in an atmosphere of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, to give a thought to the predicament of the waterside workers at Port Kembla. I ask the Government, before it is too late, to refrain from applying industrial conscription to them, because, if it does apply it, it will have against it the whole working class of Australia. Whether the men are beaten into submission or not their souls and spirits will live. They will have, not only the sympathy of the masses, but also on this occasion, that of the middle classes of Australia, the people who believe in international causes - and the patriots who believe that the vital necessities of this country have been sacrificed by this Government in its attempt to secure the dividend-earning capacity of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
.- I desire to refer to the difficult position in which an industry in the north-west of Australia finds itself because of competition from abroad. The following telegram that I have received explains the position : -
Desire emphasize fact that all Broome government servants, shopkeepers, workers, &c, &c, in fact, whole white population of Broome solely dependent on pearling industry and for your and Minister’s information the white population of Broome is four hundred and sixty-five. Fleets owned and operated are one company each twelve, seven and five boats, two pearlers- each four boats, one pearler three boats, five pearlers each two boats, eight pearlers each one boat. Of these only three pearlers have no family resident in Broome, companies have several families dependent. Owing extreme isolation impossible visualize plight, all homes and families here if forced leave> district which must happen in event no response from Government to our appeal. Anxiously awaiting decision Federal Cabinet regards produce advance and subsidy. Situation most serious, two-thirds Broome fleet already in port owing unfavorable working conditions, expect balance fleet arrive Broome next week, when lay-up will start and as most pearlers definitely unable pay off, serious complications with men will ensue unless Government grants our request and immediately makes available Sixteen thousand pounds produce advance and Sixteen thousands pounds subsidy.
The produce advance is made only against the pearl-shell as it is sold., For the last four or five years, the pearling industry of Australia, which is located at Broome, in the north-west of Western Australia, at. Darwin, in the Northern Territory, and off the coast of Queensland, has been menaced by Japanese pearling interests. Some of the Japanese pearlers originally worked as divers for the pearling masters in Broome. ‘ They subsequently returned to Japan, and later came back to Australia in the employ of a large Japanese company - the South Sea Shipping Company. They fish in what are practically Australian waters. They have the advantage of cheap-labour conditions, as well as larger boats and more of them. They have shipped the whole of their pearl-shell, for last season, which has been fished in Australian waters, to the one market available for the disposal of that commodity to-day, namely, the United States of America. This has completely shut out the Australian master pearlers in each of the pearling ports, and, as a consequence, the white settlement at Broome, 1,600 miles north of Perth, has no prospect of making a livelihood. We cannot prevent these foreigners from taking possession of our pearl beds, but some assistance will have to be given to our pearlers to enable them to carry on when they are unable to place their pearl-shell on the New York market or other markets for at least a year; otherwise Broome will be the first port taken in this country by foreigners. The prestige of Australia is at stake. We are spending on defence a thousand times more than would be needed to subsidize this industry. I find no fault with that. But I do contend that we ought to combat in the only way that is possible the efforts of these foreigners to take away the livelihood of our men. The salmon fishermen of the United States of America are being assisted to withstand a threat from the same quarter. At the present moment Japan is contemplating the exclusion of Great Britain from trading activities in China, yet at the same time its pearlers are seizing the livelihood of Australians. It is up to this Government to defeat their designs by peaceful means, namely, by subsidizing local companies and thus enabling them to advance the cause of a White Australia.
.- In referring to observations made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and bearing in mind the season to which our attention has been directed, I intend to clothe my attitude towards the Government in the mantle of a dignified silence. So far as the right honorable gentleman has availed himself of the opportunity to express his appreciation of the work of the officers of the House, I cordially join in what may be described as a vote of thanks, because I was very early taught to say “ Thank you “ for services rendered ; that has always been considered a mark of elementary politeness. Although I feel that, in speeches delivered on the occasion of Christmas partings and obituaries, a good deal of “ hooey “ is developed, still it is customary, and tradition must be served; the thing which is done must be done, and that which is not done must be avoided.
But it was not for the purpose of making these observations that I rose to speak. I am sorry that I shall have to strike, I shall not say a discordant note because, as a matter of fact, I am about to sing a little ditty of my own, in perfect tune, but perhaps a note out of harmony with some of the observations already made. I desire to refer to a compliment which, in a certain sense, has been paid to me, in that I have been mentioned on the front page of the Argus, a journal published in Melbourne and circulating on occasion in Canberra. The article is dated the 8th December, 1938, and appears under the heading “Defence Tax may be Higher “ ; “ Labour Division on Policy “. In it are some very interesting observations, not in the bolder or black type, nor in the highest class of conspicuous misrepresentation, but in the gradually fading type used in that process of diminuendo which leads the unsuspecting public to believe that an element of tru’th is at last to be found in these inspired press articles. I quote the following paragraph: -
A split has developed in the Federal Parliamentary Labour party as the result of the refusal of a small section of the party. Icd by Mr. Brennan, to accept the majority decision of the caucus on defence.
Much too great praise is bestowed on me in the suggestion that I am the leader of a party. I disavow, entirely, the soft impeachment, or that there is any such impeachment. I desire to refer more particularly to the . following paragraph : -
After a clash in the party room this morning, extraordinary scenes occurred in the House of Representatives this afternoon when, after moving to a seat in the back Labour benches, Mr. Brennan engaged in a number of demonstrations of hostility against the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin.
– The honorable member should not do it.
– I have many critics in this House, among them the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), but in regard to the statement, “Mr. Brennan engaged in a number of demonstrations of hostility against the Leader of the Oppo sition Mr. Curtin “, I wish to say simply that there is not a scintilla of truth in it. I do not think that among my most severe critics in this . Parliament, there is one who listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who would so far forget what he owes to truth and decency as between honorable members, as to say that there is even the faintest atom of truth’ in that statement. I engaged in no demonstration at all, much less in any demonstration against the Leader of the Opposition. I made one mild and innocuous interjection to which I referred later in the course of my address. It was merely a friendly suggestion on a matter which did not involve policy at all, and which rightly, as I said later on, passed unnoticed. But there was no attack made by me, and no unfriendly suggestion, not even a whisper in the ear of a colleague. I listened with the marked attention due to my leader’s eloquent and for the most part admirable speech. The reference ‘to my moving to the back benches, that part of the chamber from which I am now speaking, was made on another occasion, and I then regarded it as too silly for notice, but as the statement has been repeated, and one can only gather that it is likely to be repeated again, I point out that, although my usual place is on the front Opposition bench, I have for several months past found it convenient to address the Chair from this corner of the House for tire very simple reason that desks which are not available to honorable members using the front bench, are provided here. I am not at all concerned as to the views which the Argils may hold with regard to the policy for which’ I stand, nor am I concerned to make any explanation whatever to the proprietors or the editor of the Argus; nor again do I comment on their wild guess-work as to what happened in the party room. But I am concerned inasmuch as the integrity of the Labour party is called into question, and inasmuch as my relationship to the Leader of the Opposition has been grossly misrepresented, and as it is desirable that this united Labour party should proceed on its victorious course up to and after the next election, I have thought it my duty to the people who sent me here and to my leader, to make a complete disavowal of this utterly mendacious report which has been circulated with the obvious intention of injuring me in the public mind and in the mind of my electors, and, incidentally, of promoting the view that this party is crumbling as the Government nas been crumbling and very ominously for some time past.
As this is the Christmas season, and relevant to the speech which I made last night and also to the report which appeared in the Argus, I take leave to make a couple of short quotations from the most recent issue of the Sydney Bulletin, dated the 7th December, to which paper has been contributed as an editorial a very delightful satire upon what it calls “ The great war of words,” now proceeding in connexion with the unhappy propaganda with which the people are being afflicted. I take leave at this most appropriate season to quote from that article the words of two leading statesmen, representative in each case of sister dominions, namely, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and General Smuts of South Africa. I could add indefinitely to these excellent contributions to world peace and sanity, but it would not be fair at this late hour to detain honorable members. I shall content myself with quoting these two admirable passages, containing as they do words of wisdom and advice, for the benefit of honorable members opposite and, more particularly, for the benefit of the Government. Mr. Chamberlain is quoted as saying -
Christmas is coming, and I see no reason why we should not prepare ourselves for the festive season in a spirit of cheerfulness and confidence. Political conditions in Europe are now settling down to quieter times. In this brightening atmosphere, let us not conjure up troubles which may never arise. Let us rather set about our several tasks with a determination that the new year shall be more prosperous and happier than the old.
General Smuts stated -
There has been special progress in one direction of very profound significance. There has been a far-reaching change in the temper of the nations and their attitude to war. Everywhere the pacific temper is growing beneath the surface. This is a real advance since 1914, when the warlike temper among, at any rate, some nations did much to force the hand of their Governments.
Those gentlemen stand for a political system to which I by no means subscribe.
I have drawn attention to their views because it occurs to me that they might have some influence upon the Government and upon Government supporters in inducing a saner and wiser outlook-
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I am sure that honorable members generally will join with me in expressing sympathy with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in whatever it is that is troubling him. As I listened to the honorable gentleman defending himself against something or other, I was reminded df an incident well known to lawyers, and, I am quite sure, well known to the honorable member. He may recollect the story of the young man who was charged at the Collingwood police court which, I believe,” is in the honorable member’s electorate, with having stolen a pair of boots. The evidence for the prosecution was conclusive, but the evidence for the defence was equally conclusive, consisting as it did of the evidence of ten clergymen, all of whom swore that the young gentleman was of unimpeachable character. The magistrate was a very wise man indeed. He said that he was quite satisfied that here was a very clear case. The evidence was conclusive, and showed that a yo’ung gentleman of unimpeachable character had undoubtedly stolen a pair of boots. I was reminded of this story as I listened to the honorable member, though I do not profess to explain why I should have thought of it.
I did not rise simply to make this short but genuine speech of sympathy. My purpose was really to answer certain remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) concerning the Port Kembla dispute. The honorable member, with warmth and spirit and a great deal of sincerity, attacked the position of the Government in relation to the dispute that has arisen at Port Kembla. He said that what we were doing was contrary to a great current of opinion, not only among the men concerned at Port Kembla, but also among many other people in the community. If he means that many people in Australia, on a casual view, think that the men at Port Kembla are justified in substituting their will on a matter of international trade for the will and policy of the Government, I agree that many people do entertain that view. Because it was felt that the view of the Government should be put with particularity to these men before any trouble occurred, the Government invited them to send representatives to Canberra, and I was deputed, as the Minister for Industry, to see them and to .put to them, in an informal fashion, the views of the Government on this subject. I did so. I think the very best way in which I can re-state those views to the House will be to read from the shorthand note that was taken of my remarks. It will be observed that these remarks were not couched in any set form, but were of an informal character. But they contain, as fairly as I can state it, the view that the Government holds on this very important matter. I said -
In the first place, your decision is apparently that you will not load pig-iron which is consigned to Japan, and as I understand it, your reason for that is that the Japanese arc engaged in a war against the Chinese of which your members disapprove, and that your members consequently are not disposed to assist in sending to Japan materials which can be used for warlike purposes. That, I understand, is the view you . have, and it is a view which has been expressed, of course, by a great number of people - not only members of the. Waterside Workers Federation. I have had letters from people offering a similar view, but I think that, properly considered, it is a wrong view and for reasons that 1 want to put to you..
In the first place, let me say this - that the Japanese Government, looking at what is happening in Australia, is not going to draw a distinction between what is done by the waterside workers of Australia, and what is done by the Government of Australia. We are dealing with a number of governments in the world which are accustomed to having done in their countries what they want to have done, and nothing else, and these countries find difficulty in understanding our system, under which governments propound laws and all sorts of individuals in the community have views of their own and many disagree with the government law altogether. That position is not clearly understood in other parts of the world, and it is no satisfying answer to say to the Japanese government, if it protests that Australia is refusing to send goods to Japan for which Japan has entered into contracts - “Well, it is not Australia, it is not the Australian Government - it ia a section of the Australian community, and it is not being prevented from doing it by the Australian Government.” We have to consider this matter, therefore - we, the Australian Government and the people whose -Government we arc. We have to consider this in the first instance internationally. What is the effect of all this internationally?
Now it is quite true that Australia is a member of the League of Nations. It is equally true that the League of Nations as a body has not imposed sanctions on Japan in relation to China. As far as the League of Nations is concerned, it has made a protest. lt has taken no economic or military action in relation to Japan’s Chinese expedition. Now is it suggested that although the League of Nations has not imposed sanctions Australia should? That is one of the very first questions we have to look at. Is it suggested that our country, the country which is most closely associated in a geographical sense with Japan - we alone of all the countries among the League of Nations should impose sanctions on Japan? If it is, then internationally we are a very courageous nation and it is to be hoped that our capacity for enforcing sanctions is as great as our will. Now I don’t believe that anybody in Australia, seriously, with that question in front of him or her, would say that we ought to be the one country in the world to impose sanctions on Japan.
Well now, when 1 say that, somebody will say to me - “ That is all right, but I am not wanting to impose sanctions - but pig iron is made into munitions - pig iron can be converted into steel in Japan - converted into bayonets and guns, and that is too much like providing Japan with materials of war “. Well that, I suggest to you, gentlemen, is a very limited outlook on the problem of war. The Japanese armies in China require clothing. They require food. They require arms. They require all three if they are going to carry on a war against China, and if we are going, in our limited way in Australia, to take steps to prevent them from carrying on a war against China, then we will have to prevent them from getting not only Australian pig iron, but from getting Australian wool - Australian wheat - all those raw materials which we, up to the present time, export to Japan.
Now suppose we were to say, “ Well all right - we are going to send nothing to Japan that would conceivably help Japan in this war “. That would mean, in pretty plain language, cutting off exports to Japan altogether. I do not know whether any body believes that if we should cut off our exports to Japan altogether we would prevent Japan carrying on war against China. I believe that if we did that we would start a trade war against Japan, the end of which nobody in this room can see. You see it is a very good thing - an entirely good thing, to be in favour of peace, but it is not a very sensible thing to say that we are in favour of peace and then follow up a line of policy that must do more to provoke war than any other policy we could imagine. And of course the position at the present time is that we have representations made to us by the Japanese government. The Japanese government is in a position to say quite logically - “Look, has the Government of Australia imposed sanctions against us “ 2 and the answer is “ No, the Government has not “. “ Has the Government of Australia prohibited the export of pig iron to us ?” “ Wc have not “. “ Then why can’t we get the delivery of goods we ordered?” “ Because a section of the people in Australia have decided you cannot”. “Is that section carrying out the policy of the Government?” “ No, it is not. It is substituting its will for the policy of the Government “.
– Who was the chairman of the meeting?
– I was. It was my speech, and I may say that it was listened to with respect. I continued -
Now what would you say if that was the position put to you? How would you describe the Government of Australia? Would you say “ That is a fine democratic government “ or would you say quite plainly “ In that country, the government is a government that has no authority. It does not represent the people “.
– That is an unfair question.
– I proceeded-
Of course, gentlemen, I know what you think of us as a government. I am not asking you to say that you think we are a great government. . I have no doubt that you, being in. another party, think we are just as bad a government as could be found in Australia. You are entitled to think that. But you are not entitled to make yourselves the government of the country - but at the next election get us tossed out and get yourselves elected.
– There was some horse-sense about that.
– There was. I suggest that- the honorable member repeal it to the workers at Port Kembla. I proceed -
We won’t ‘ complain. Nobody can complain in a democratic country. Suppose that to-morrow we had an election and the Lyons Government was thrown out on its ear, and a government that you really believed in came in. What do you think that government would do? I would just like you to put that question to yourselves. What would Mr. Curtin’s Government do? Would it say: “ Well, the Port Kembla chaps are not willing to send pig iron to Japan, and we are going to agree with that. We think it is the right course, and in order to make the whole thing regular, we are going to prohibit the export of pig iron to Japan and then, because we arc sensible people, we are going to prohibit wool because a soldier must have clothes to wear, particularly in a rigorous Chinese winter, and we are going to prohibit all these things “. I- know that if that were their policy, the defence bill we are going to introduce this week would be a flea-bite compared with the one they would have to introduce. Think that over.
.- I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) express appreciation of the services rendered by those associated with the activities of Parliament, but, after all, parliamentary activities are not all that count. To-night, we had a report from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Thorby) on the Kyeema disaster. We were not presented with a verbatim report of the proceedings at the inquiry, but we got an outline of them couched in general terms, which indicated that the committee had made suggestions for the future. I definitely disagree with the attitude of the Government in regard to the report. I say now to the Government that a full inquiry into the Kyeema disaster should be undertaken by either the Parliament itself, or a High Court judge. I say that because I realize the importance of aviation to this country. Many young Australians are looking to aviation as a career. They should not be asked to risk their lives in a career in which the Government is not prepared to give to them the protection that is necessary. During the recess, I hope that the Government will decide on the inquiry which I have suggested.
– In view of statements which have recently appeared in the press and elsewhere, the Government desires to announce, first, that the scheme of national insurance will definitely be proceeded with; secondly, that division 1 of Part VII. of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, which makes legal provision for the constitution of approved societies, will be proclaimed to commence forthwith; and thirdly, that the remainder of the act and the acts imposing contributions will, at the beginning of January, be proclaimed to commence on the 4th September, 1939. That date is somewhat later than the date originally intended, but it has been fixed so as to allow time for the investigation of certain proposals now before the Government for
I lie rectification of anomalies, and the introduction of consequential amending legislation in the next sittings of Parliament early in 1939. In these circumstances, it is not necessary to proceed with the bill on the notice-paper. A new amending bill will, as indicated, be introduced. The National Insurance Commission will confer* with the approved societies regarding preliminary administrative expenses which the societies have incurred during the period up to the time of the commencement of contributions.
.-! reciprocate the good wishes which were expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his appreciation of the efforts of the Opposition to carry on the business of the country. But I suggest that had he not heeded the advice of the Opposition, the Government would have crashed long ago. I particularly desire to refer to the swan song of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies).
– Be careful ! He is behind the honorable member with a tomahawk.
– If rumour be true, the Attorney-General has one foot in his political grave and the other on a banana skin. The right honorable gentleman referred at length to his interview with the representatives of the workers of Port Kembla. It will be noted, in the- first place, that he was the chairman of the meeting. Otherwise, 1 doubt whether half the speech which he read here tonight would have been permitted. Of course, being the chairman and the principal speaker, anything that he said was allowed. Apparently, he had a competent stenographer present to record all that ho said about the Port Kembla dispute; but we have heard nothing of what the workers’ representatives said. Having had an “ open go “ at the interview with the representatives of the workers of Port Kembla, he decided to unload here to-night the speech which he then delivered. When we study the remarks of the right honorable gentleman we realize the one essential fact that he missed was that, whilst his Government is asking this country to agree to enormous expenditure on defence, and, by innuendo, indicates that our potential enemy is Japan - although it has not the courage to say so - the Attorney-General condemns the workers of Port Kembla because they have the courage to do what the Government is afraid to do. Had the Government the courage to practise what it preaches, it would have done what it refuses permission to the waterside workers of Port Kembla to do. The Government has given permission for the export of iron ore to Japan, but the waterside workers at Port Kembla conscientiously believe that pig iron, which is iron ore in a more advanced stage of manufacture, should not be exported to a country which is a potential enemy of Australia. Whilst this Government preaches a policy of defence of Australia against aggression and by innuendo indicates that Japan is our potential enemy, and whilst it asks the people of Australia to submit to an unparalleled sacrifice in order to provide the means to defend Australia, it penalizes the workers of Port Kembla, because they refuse to be the ally, as it were, of the Japanese Government, first, in the massacre of Chinese citizens, and secondly, in a possible attack upon this country, made possible by war materials, manufactured from iron ore produced in this country. When we look at the ramifications of the armament firms in bygone conflicts, when we realize that a former Prime Minister of Great Britain went to Turkey and discovered, there that some of the munitions and guns which were used for the purpose of massacring Australian troops on Gallipoli were manufactured in Great Britain, we wonder whether, with the connivance of this Government, pig iron, which is being exported to Japan to-day will be used for the purpose of massacring Australian citizens at some future time. History has an awkward habit of repeating itself. We have evidence to-day that those ruthless seekers of profit who made fortunes out of the manufacture of munitions of war, had no scruples about selling munitions to the Turkish Government to be used for the extermination of Australia’s son3 at Gallipoli, and we hesitate to think what scruples has this Government which vaguely suggests to the people of this country that the potential enemy of Australia is Japan - although it has not the courage to say it openly - and at the same time has the temerity, to seek to’ force upon a section of the Australian workers one of the most reprehensible pieces of Commonwealth legislation as a’ penalty for their refusal to export to Japan the very materials which in the near future might be used for the purpose of massacring the people of Australia. If it is a good thing for the Government of Australia by executive act to refuse to export iron ore to Japan, it is a good thing, I think, for a section of the workers of Australia who view this problem from an entirely different aspect for conscientious reasons to refuse to export to Japan precisely the same ingredients of the materials of war which might ultimately be used for the purpose of assailing the men, women, and children of Australia. When we realize these facts, we realize also what consummate humbug it is for the AttorneyGeneral to unload upon this House to-night a speech which he made to the representatives of the workers at Port Kembla prior to his subjecting them to what is commonly known as “ the dog collar act “ under which they will be licensed in much the same fashion as a dog is licensed, because they refuse to be unpatriotic to the people of Australia. The honorable gentleman has the effrontery to come here to-night with a speech that was probably prepared before he ever met the delegation to which it was delivered. Had the meeting been under the control of another chairman, he might not have been permitted to make such a speech, but because he was chairman of the meeting and because he was a representative of a government which tc-day is staggering towards its doom, he was able to unload it. on the representatives of the workers at Port Kembla who, when the whole fundamentals of the situation are considered, are taking a real patriotic attitude. Whatever might be said about the pros and cons of the case of the workers of Port Kembla, let it at least be said to their credit that they are fighting a lone battle from which irrespective of the outcome, they have everything to lose. Had those men been actuated by personal motives they would have agreed to load anything for Japan. If any section of the community has anything to lose by the attitude the Port Kembla workers are taking in this crisis, it is the very workers themselves, because, after all, the Government is using to-day against them the same system of industrial terrorism that it has used ever since it has .been in power. Because those men, for conscientious reasons, believe that it is not in the interests of the workers or of the people of Australia to pile up the ingredients of materials of war in the country of a potential enemy, they are being victimized. I say that they are making a great sacrifice on behalf of the whole of the people of Australia. I would go further, and say that they are sacrificing, not only their livelihood, but also everything for which their organization has fought and for which it has expended unlimited funds in order to bring about the conditions which they enjoy to-day. By the simple stroke of the pen of a man who to-day, because of the instability of his Government, stands with one foot in his political grave and the other on a banana skin, the workers of Port Kembla are to be victimized in this iniquitous fashion. If ever colossal humbug was talked in this House we had
An instance of it to-night, when the Attorney-General referred to the right of the Government to determine this question. Is any right superior to the right of this body 0f men to act in accordance with the dictates of conscience? Does the Government achieve anything by driving people to do something which they conscientiously believe to be against the interests of their country and their class ? I think not. After listening to the diatribe of humbug repeated by the AttorneyGeneral to-night, 1 say that, in the test of patriotism, he suffers badly by comparison with those upon whom he has imposed, by the exercise of some temporary power, “ the dog-collar act “. By the exercise of this power, the AttorneyGeneral would ruin the prospects of hundreds of workers of this country. He would degrade and prevent them from earning their legitimate livelihood because of their patriotism, and because they have displayed an evidence of decency which the right honorable gentleman does not himself possess.
.- I listened with interest to the felicitations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on the national insurance scheme or, rather, “ scream I think that every honorable member who took part in the debate on the national insurance legislation desires some form of national insurance, .but, in the light of recent events, I am sorry that the Treasurer did not this evening see fit to withdraw it permanently. I am afraid that the scheme will never be operated, for the simple reason that within the last few days unforeseen circumstances have obliged the Government to provide an additional £20,000,000 for the defence of Australia. The additional burden placed on the taxpayers qf this country by the latest instalment of the Government’s defence programme will bleed them white and with the added burden of national insurance they will be quite unable to meet their obligations. The disclosures which have been made during the last few days have shown all too clearly that the Government’s principal duty at the present time is to provide for the adequate defence of this country. While war clouds hover over the world, it is imperative that we should take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of Australia against any possible invader. World prices for our primary products are no better than they were when the national insurance legislation was introduced. In addresses which I delivered through various broadcasting stations, I emphasized that the solvency of that scheme1 will depend entirely upon the prices ruling for Australia’s exportable primary products when the act is brought into operation. I- stated that if there was not a material improvement of prices, the’ Government would be well advised to postpone the operation of the measure for some considerable time. I am still of that opinion. I believe that, before it proceeds further with the preparatory administrative work, the Government, even at this late hour, would be well advised to reconsider its decision and, by abandoning the act, save the taxpayers of this country much unnecessary expenditure. I. for one, will not agree to that form of national insurance, at all events, at a time like this when the people of Australia are overburdened with taxes.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. O. J. Bell).On behalf of the Chairman of Committees, the Temporary Chairman of
Committees, the Clerk of the House, the Clerk Assistant and all other officers and attendants of the House during this session, I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for their expressions of appreciation of the work that has been done. The Prime Minister paid a very eloquent tribute to the work of the officers of the House and I take this opportunity to support his remarks. I.” appreciate very highly the services of members of the Hansard staff, the Library, and other departments. They have always been loyal and attentive to us, and I am sure that my appreciation of their work is shared by every member of this House. On their behalf, I reciprocate the good wishes of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, regarding the Christmas recess. We sincerely hope that honorable members all will enjoy their vacation. I will not say rest, because I know that members of Parliament are always fully occupied with their public duties, but we trust that they will enjoy their change of occupation, and, being recuperated, will upon their return be able satisfactorily to discharge the important tasks which they are called upon to perform in this House on behalf of the people.
On my own behalf, I sincerely thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for what they have said in commendation of my work. I hope that I deserve it. I deeply appreciate the assistance given to me by the Clerk of the House, the Clerk Assistant and all officers of the ‘House. Probably no one realizes so well as I do the value of the work performed by these officers, their loyalty, efficiency, and willingness at all times to carryout their duties. I value also the support which I have received in the discharge of my duties from honorable members generally. “With the very best wishes of myself, and the whole staff of the House, I put the question -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Bank for International Settlements - Protocol regarding Immunities (Brussels, 30th July, 1936).
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 111.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 109.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance of 1938 - No. 15 - Encouragement of Primary Production.
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1938-
No. 28 - Companies (Liquidation).
No. 29 - Money Lenders (No. 2).
No. 30 - Advisory Council.
No. 31 - Police Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 32 - Seat of Government (Administration).
No. 33 - Industrial Board (No. 2).
Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance - Rules.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
Will he furnish a list of Commonwealth works authorized by Parliament or determined on by the Government and not yet completed, specifying as to each: -
the nature of the work;
the site of the work;
the date of its authorization or of the determination made in respect of it; and
the reason why it has not been completed ?
– To supply the details asked relating to all the ‘works for the whole of the Commonwealth over a period of years would cause considerable delay in the work of the department which is working under pressure in view of the extensive and urgent programme being carried out. In addition, the cost would be more than could be justified. Particulars regarding any specified works could be supplied if requested.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
With reference to the appointment made to the National Co-ordinating Council for Physical Fitness, announced by the Minister ‘ for Health on Thursday, the 1st December, 1938, will consideration be given to the appointment to this council of a technical physical training expert of the Defence Department, since the forces must be closely associated with any si ici movement t
– This matter will receive consideration by the council at its meeting in Canberra next week.
Hang arb for Royal Aero Clubs amb Australian Aerial Medical Services.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The information requested is not readily available in view of the fact that it would require an extensive and expensive return which could not be justified. Figures relating to any specific aerodrome could be made available if required.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained, and the honorable member will be advised as early as possible.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he supply comparative figures setting out the payments made to allowance postmasters for their services for the period 1907- 1913, and in the present year?
– The amounts
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Since the drive for 70,000 members began, what have been the enlistments in the Citizen Forces, showing each State separately?
– Figures from the date on which the recruiting campaign actually commenced are not available, but from the 30th September, 1938, to the 2nd December, 1938, the enlistments were as follows : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act: Effect on Applications fob Alimony.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have not seen either of the reports mentioned, but I shall refer them to the Repatriation Commission with a view to obtaining the Solicitor-General’s opinion on the matter.
Civil Aviation : PerthWilunaKALGOORLIE Service.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Has any decision yet been arrived at with respect to the deviation of the present PerthWilunaKalgoorlie Air Mail Service to include the growing mining centre of Youanmi
-. - No decision has yet been arrived at in regard to the proposal to deviate the present PerthWilunaKalgoorlie Air Service to include Youanmi. The operation of the PerthWilunaKalgoorlie Air Service as regards frequency, stopping-places, &c, is at present receiving consideration of the interdepartmental committee which is now reviewing the Commonwealth air transport system. The question of the inclusion of Youanmi as a stopping-place on this service will also be considered by the committee.
e asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 7. The detailed questions asked by the honorable member relate mainly to the scope of the examination of applications for patents. A great deal of investigation would be necessary in order to furnish categorical replies to the various questions asked by the honorable member. I think, however, that the following reply will give the honorable member the substance of the information which he desires.
The scope of the examination of applications for patents has received consideration on a number of occasions in the past. In 1907, it was the subject of a considered opinion by the then secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department (afterwards Solicitor-General). In the course of that opinion, Sir Robert Garran advised that, while the Patent Office was under an obligation to make a search among the prior Australian patents specifications, it was under no obligation to make a search among the British specifications. I am in accord with that advising. It may be mentioned that the whole question of the scope of the examination was considered by Parliament while the Patents Bill 1903, was under discussion, and an amendment, moved in another place, that the scope of the examination should extend to United Kingdom specifications was rejected (see Hansard, 1903, Vol. 15, pp. 3305-3310). A debate on the examination provisions also occurred in this House (Hansard, 1903, Vol. 15, pp. 5585-7).
During the tenure of office of Mr. G. S. Brown, as Commissioner of Patents a partial method of name-index-searching against applications received from abroad was introduced, the starch going back to a period of five years only, prior to the date of the application, and being initially conducted not by a n Examiner of Patents but the librarian of the office. Thus, if an applicant with an address in the United- Kingdom applied in Australia for a patent, the librarian was instructed to search in the United Kingdom name index to see if an applicant of that name had, within the previous five years, applied for a patent in the United Kingdom. But if the applicant gave an Australian address, no search in the United Kingdom name index was made. This method of search would not have disclosed the fact than an application fora patent for the identical invention had been made by a person having some other name or by an agent. It seems obvious that the only scientific way in which to search against inventions is to search by subjectmatter, not by name of applicant.
Upon the appointment of the present Commissioner, this method of conducting a partial and unscientific name-index-search among the British specifications was terminated, and a method of search in consonance with the intention of Parliament, as expressed in section 41 of the Patents Act, was reverted to.
The Commissioner of Patents was paid the following salary: -
The Commissioner did not receive any extra payments during those years.
The amount paid in connexion with theCommissioner’s visit to London to represent the Commonwealth at the London revision of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property was £1,089.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 December 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381208_reps_15_158/>.